Then and Now features the work of eight South African photographers whose work straddle South Africa’s transition to democracy. Almost all of them were members of Afrapix, the collective photo agency that played a central role in documenting the struggle against apartheid in the 1980s and the early 1990s. This essay is my contribution to the project. 

“I went through a few very uncertain years of not knowing which direction to take, and photography came as an epiphany. I woke up one morning and realised that this was something I could do to engage with the social realities of the time, with exactly how deep the divisions were, and how little we knew each about each other. I realised that photographic images could help to bridge that gap, or just to keep the memory of the situation alive. 

In a country that was as socially manipulated as South Africa was, we are all having to find ourselves again, in ways that are not as prescribed as they were in the past, when we accepted certain identities because they were part of the political scenario. We now have the ability to embark on more personal and more self-exploratory journeys, and you have to do this if you really want to know who you are – for all sorts of reasons, but probably most to do with identity. And people’s sense of identity is shifting rapidly throughout the world, but particularly in South Africa”.